About 65 Black Lives Matter St. Paul supporters marched to within a few yards of the final stretch of the Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday morning, breaking through several police cordons to chant about racial inequities as runners made their way toward the finish line.
Police officers outnumbered protesters, and no arrests were made.
Dozens of state troopers, mounted park police and bike patrol officers allowed the demonstrators to pass without incident but followed alongside them until they reached their destination — a grassy hill near the Cathedral of St. Paul.
Steve Linders, spokesman for the St. Paul police, said the large police presence helped ensure a peaceful protest “and kept the marathon safe for runners, spectators and all the men and women who work so hard to put this great event on every year.”
Black Lives Matter honored its agreement, which Mayor Chris Coleman announced on Thursday, not to interfere physically with marathoners. The group gathered at 10 a.m. in Boyd Park for a rally and marched from there to the race course, ignoring at least two human blockades formed by police on Rice Street.
“The Twin Cities Marathon had an opportunity to really show that they do feel like black lives matter, that they do feel Native lives matter,” protest organizer Rashad Turner told the crowd. “But they just attempted to drown us out, with their announcers talking louder.”
From outside a double set of barricades, including a 6-foot metal fence, protesters chanted to spectators and incoming runners. Every so often an athlete would raise a fist in solidarity with the cause as they passed. A few runners also wore shirts promoting Black Lives Matter.
Turner said the protest aimed to raise awareness about recent altercations between St. Paul police and people of color, including the death of Philip Quinn, a mentally ill 30-year-old who was shot after police responded to a call about a suicidal man.
Half a dozen people carrying American and Confederate flags stood on the outskirts of the rally monitoring the group’s movements for nearly four hours. Members said they disagreed with Black Lives Matter’s methods, not its message. “We just feel they’re targeting innocent people,” said one man, who didn’t wish to be identified.
The compromise to stay off the course came after days of uncertainty on the part of city officials and athletes who feared runners might have to dodge protesters to finish the race.
Organizers of the St. Paul chapter originally had planned on “shutting down” the race, which begins in downtown Minneapolis and winds 26.2 miles on its way to the State Capitol.
Turner recently organized protests at the State Fair, at the governor’s residence and on the Green Line light rail that have drawn crowds from dozens to hundreds.